In a Veterans Day message, Lt. Col Alexander Vindman and his twin brother, Lt. Col Yevgeny Vindman, told their story on behalf of all refugees, military and civilian.
In the video for HIAS, the 139-year-old Jewish nonprofit that aids refugees from around the world, the brothers, who were smeared as disloyal by the Trump administration, recount their journey to America.
“I think the refugee story, the refugee experience is an important part to a lot of Americans’ self-identity.”
We are so proud to have @AVindman and @YVindman share their experiences as refugees and veterans in honor of #VeteransDay this week.#VeteransforRefugeespic.twitter.com/MlHN8X8Pym— HIAS (@HIASrefugees) November 10, 2020
“Antisemitism in the Soviet Union was rampant,” Yevgeny explains of the conditions they were born to in Kiev, Ukraine, “Our family fled the Soviet Union as Jewish refugees and we were resettled to the United States by HIAS at age 3.”
As pictures of the boys in bonnets or studying Torah appear on screen, Alexander explains how their father, Semyon, arrived with $759, three children, a mother-in-law and just four suitcases to carry all their belongings.
“The American dream as conceived of by an immigrant is what drove him to give up everything that he knew and start over here,” Alexander Vindman said.
The video is just one in a series the Vindman brothers have made with HIAS, as the two have become more vocal and less publicity averse in the lead-up to this month’s presidential election. Alexander broke his silence to the press in September and has a memoir scheduled to land in June 2021 called “Here, Right Matters: An American Story.”
The latest spot involves the regular themes of Vindman’s life — a commitment to service, probity and country first.
“We’ve served in the military for the bulk of our lives,” said Alexander Vindman. “We live in service to our nation. I think that might be the highest form of patriotism. It’s not just simple words; it’s deeds.”
But while Alexander has been the main brother in the limelight, following his testimony during Trump’s impeachment, if you follow the brother’s on Twitter you know they’re not above some twin sibling rivalry. This time, Yevgeny got the last word.
“People come to this country as immigrants and refugees and serve,” Yevgeny said. “Whether that be in service in uniform like Alex and I have chosen or as a doctor or a teacher, they look to merit the great gift that they’ve been given.”
PJ Grisar is the Forward’s culture reporter. He can be reached at Grisar@Forward.com.
Alexander Vindman and his twin share their story